I don’t remember my feelings regarding school in my younger years. As all children do I turned five and in the compliance of state education laws I entered kindergarten. These were not terrible years; I have several fond memories of wonderful teachers who had a passion for education. As I neared junior high I began to feel a great Dissatisfaction with school in general. It was not that I struggled. I generally excelled in academics. I simply failed to ever fit into the ideal model that our society deems acceptable for education. I briefly left the private school I attended most of my life and entered into the public school system in hope of finding that my frustrations were simply from the small, sheltered environment I had experienced. Once again my hopes were dashed when I found a system focused more on standardized testing and pat methods of education while masquerading as a place of diversity. I returned to private school still frustrated with my overall learning experience. I desired the freedom to learn from experience. I longed to be out in the world learning and applying that knowledge. In my mind life was not a classroom so how could we truly learn to function from within one?
Enter my own children many years down the road. Somewhere between holding that sweet bundle of joy in the delivery room to the moment you hear them make their first attempt singing the ABC’s you realize that their future education decisions are solely in your hands. It is very sobering and a bit daunting. Based on my own educational experiences I knew I could not simply take the traditional path. At this point I realized home schooling was to be our option. I will not say it does not frighten me in the least, but I embrace the challenge and honor to take a more hands on responsibility in my children’s education.
I know many people who frown upon home schooling as a sheltered environment with little socialization or formal education. I beg to differ on this. After much research there are so many options available to home schooled children. There are study groups, discussion groups, not to mention general extracurricular activities my kids will have more time to participate in when they are not busy rushing here or there on a busy 9-5 schedule. I long to see my children love learning instead stressing about exams, grades, and homework. I believe there is some validity to bench marks created in the traditional school system, but how many of our children become burned out and lose that spark they had in their eyes the first day of kindergarten. I greatly value a good curriculum, but I guess you could say I desire a hybrid form of education where children can be involved in self directed learning within the parameters of a nurturing environment.
One of the greatest benefits I am excited about is the ability to get out and do something. In a large class it can be difficult to get out much. The logistics of a field trip with an elementary school class can get crazy. I want to travel and actually see the history of this great state. I want to do more than read about science. I want my kids to experiment. Why just read the classics and take a quiz when you can watch a play or participate in a group discussion from a diverse age group? There is just too much to experience in this life, and a one size fits all education model just won’t cut it in my opinion.
I realize the choice to home school is very personal, and it is not for everyone. I know there are many bright young minds brought up in our current education system. I do not choose this path because I am afraid of the world or want to hide my kids from outside influence. My desires are quite the contrary. How can our children learn to think for themselves when they are force fed test taking skills so a school can get some good marks on their TAKS test? What real life skills can be learned when we segregate children into age groups and do not allow them to associate across a more diverse cross section of students? I do not mean this blog to knock teachers in general. There are some amazing teachers who do the best with the limited materials they are given. I only recognize that education has become a very bureaucratic system that does not give many teachers the resources or support they need to be as effective.
If there is anything I desire of other parents it is not necessarily that they home school. Rather I wish that as parents we would take a greater interest in our child’s education. It is not simply a babysitter or a requirement to adhere to the state’s compulsory education requirements. If we do not pay attention to not only what our children are learning, but the methods used to teach, we will find a generation of great test takers who lack true knowledge or experience.